Pleasant Hill approves cell tower over neighbors' objections [Contra Costa Times :: ]
(Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, CA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Aug. 05--PLEASANT HILL -- The City Council on Monday granted AT&T permission to build a 45-foot cell phone tower on a hilltop near popular Paso Nogal Park, four years after the company submitted the application.
Mayor Tim Flaherty and Councilmen David Durant and Ken Carlson voted to deny an appeal of the Planning Commission's approval in 2011 of a conditional use permit for the project. Councilman Jack Weir voted to uphold the appeal. Councilman Michael Harris recused himself because his wife owns property within 500 feet of the tower site. "It's probably as good as we can get and under the circumstances; it's time to say yes," Durant said.
AT&T applied in 2010 for a use permit to install a wireless antenna disguised as a pine tree on 1.25 acres the Contra Costa Water District owns. The water district operates a storage and pump facility on the property. Representatives for AT&T have said the company needs additional infrastructure to fill a significant coverage gap in the city and to satisfy the growing demand for wireless devices.
The New Falconpointe Homeowners' Association, a group of 52 property owners, filed an appeal with the City Council in 2011. The group believes the cell tower will ruin the view of the hilltop and they urged AT&T to find another site. The Pleasant Hill Recreation and Park District board members also opposed the location because the tower would be visible to park visitors and people using an adjacent walking trail.
In 2011, the council asked the Kramer Firm, Inc., a nationally recognized law and telecommunications consultant, to explain the extent and location of the coverage gap the proposed cell tower is supposed to remedy; to identify alternative, less noticeable locations that could address the coverage gap; and to evaluate the effectiveness and feasibility of the alternate sites. The firm's John Kramer determined that the original site provided the "least intrusive" means to close the coverage gap.
AT&T revised the project to address some of the neighbors' concerns -- it moved the location of the cell tower 20 feet downhill, reduced the number of antenna panels attached to the tower from 12 to nine, decreased the number of equipment cabinets from six to four and dropped the proposed 6-foot chain link fence enclosing the base of the tower in favor of a 7-foot redwood fence.
"I think we've done what we can to improve this site while filling the (coverage) gap in the least intrusive way possible," said Jimmy Stillman, senior project manager working with AT&T.
But several residents said AT&T never seriously considered alternate sites or other technologies because it wanted to keep the project costs down.
Check back for updates to this story.
Lisa P. White covers Concord and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.
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